By JB Clark/NEMS Daily Journal
EDITOR’S NOTE: Daily Journal writers have flexed their fiction muscles to create a six-part Christmas story. The final chapter will run on Christmas Eve.
Licking the remnants of a cupcake from her lips, Scarlett crossed Main Street and pulled open one of the glass double doors that separates Nuts & Bolts Hardware from the rest of Gumtree.
Along with Scarlett came the ding of an old bell hanging over the door and a gust of cold air across the hardware store’s bare wooden floors.
A knock came from under the long, wooden check-out counter, followed by Penelope Lane, rubbing the back of her head.
“Howdy there,” she said. “What can I help you with today?”
“Well Ms. Lane, my leaky faucet is driving me crazy, and the incessant dripping is distracting me from my very important work.”
“Call me Penny, and let’s see if we can get you fixed up.”
Penny led Scarlett to the plumbing aisle adorned with rubber washers, PVC pipes and silver faucets – organized by their varying degrees of fanciness.
She sorted through the rubber washers and grabbed two different sizes and some plumber’s grease.
“One of these should stop the leak. What project is the sink distracting you from?”
Scarlett wasn’t about to let anyone in this nosy little town know she was behind the Artimus vampire series and she wasn’t in the mood to fool with her ancient kitchen faucet.
“Actually, I think a brand new faucet would fix the leak and look a lot better in my kitchen.”
The thought of making a $200 sale took Penny’s mind off her previous question, and Scarlett figured if she was going to make any upgrades around the house, she might as well do them before her publisher found out she was out of ideas.
“All right, just bring the one you want to the counter when you’re ready and we’ll get you checked out and on your way,” Penny said, happy to sell something with a larger profit margin than the cent she made on a couple of rubber washers.
Christmastime meant money got tighter around the Lane household, now that Samuel’s tuition bills from Mississippi State were coming in. Things seemed easier before she lost her beloved Richard to the wildfire he was fighting in Colorado, but she was finally figuring out how to run the store by herself and make ends meet, and Robert was now old enough to work and proved to be a big help around the store and the house.
Scarlett approached the counter with the most expensive kitchen faucet in the store.
“Is this all for you?” Penny asked, remembering Scarlett dodged her question about her important work, but deciding not to be nosy.
“I sure hope so, but I’m sure I’ll be back before Christmas with the rate my house is falling apart.”
“Speaking of Christmas, I’m a North Pole Ambassador this year with the United Way, and I’m trying to raise the most money so I can be the grand marshal of the parade. I would be thrilled if you could give a little to charity.”
Great, I get to hear this at every store I visit until Christmas, thought Scarlett as she looked down at her change and counted it, $29.42. Penny got excited as Scarlett flipped through the crisp bills but the sound of 42 cents dropping into the jar without any of the bills to absorb the clang ruined her excitement.
“Thanks, I hope you get that faucet fixed,” she said, taking some time to imagine Scarlett drenched in water and struggling with the replacement.
She really wanted to be the grand marshal. Sitting on the back of a convertible with her two boys beside her, driving down a lit up Main Street would be a great Christmas present. At this rate she would lose for sure.
More than that, she wanted to beat the overly nice Stan Burnet across the street at Sweet Lips. She wasn’t a mean-spirited person but, Stan got on her last nerve.
Coming Friday: Chapter 3: Stan ups his competitive spirit and he and Penny have a not-so-nice chat.
COMING FRIDAY: Chapter 3: Stan ups his competitive spirit and he and Penny have a notso-nice chat.